Baker Mayfield is one of three 2018 first-round quarterbacks eligible for (and likely to land) a new contract this offseason. While the Browns' former No. 1 pick has said he's in no rush to sign an extension, the QB's agent, Jack Mills, now tells Tony Grossi, of TheLandOnDemand.com, he thinks "something will be done this summer." Months after Cleveland exercised Mayfield's fifth-year option to lock him up through 2022, Mills isn't guaranteeing a new deal, saying talks are "pretty much in the team's control." But this much seems clear: Mayfield expects to be a Brown long term, and the goal is to confirm that before Week 1.
"We're not going to be dragging it out," Mills tells Grossi. "I think there's been enough contracts done for quarterbacks lately that give us a pretty good idea of what the market is. And, of course, we know that the (salary) cap isn't going up this year but it's going up next year and next."
What, exactly, is Mayfield's market, then? What can we expect an extension to look like?
Let's start by unpacking Mills' comment to Grossi about there being enough recent QB deals to form a market. Seven different QBs have signed extensions since 2019. They are as follows:
- Dak Prescott (2021, Cowboys): Four years, $160 million ($40M per year)
- Patrick Mahomes (2020, Chiefs): Ten years, $450 million ($45M per year)
- Deshaun Watson (2020, Texans): Four years, $156 million ($39M per year)
- Kirk Cousins (2020, Vikings): Two years, $66 million ($33M per year)
- Russell Wilson (2019, Seahawks): Four years, $140 million ($35M per year)
- Jared Goff (2019, Rams): Four years, $134 million ($33.5M per year)
- Carson Wentz (2019, Eagles): Four years, $128 million ($32M per year)
- Ryan Tannehill (2019, Titans): Four years, $118 million ($29.5M per year)
It's safe to assume Mayfield cannot/will not match or surpass the most recent three deals: Those of Prescott, Mahomes and Watson -- each of whom had significantly better numbers upon signing their extensions. Alongside fellow 2018 first-rounders Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, he's also a safe bet to come in third in terms of new money, with both Allen and Jackson bringing MVP candidacies and/or playoff wins to the negotiating table, where they're set to eclipse $40M per year. So where does that leave us?
Between he, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, Mayfield is the toughest to project because his trajectory has been less clear. Whereas Allen has improved vastly each year to the point of MVP consideration and an AFC title bid, and Jackson has always offered unmatched athleticism, Mayfield has been the most "pedestrian" of the trio, enduring a steep drop-off after a promising debut. But he's also been arguably the most prolific passer over a three-year span. He doesn't necessarily boast the physical tools of Allen or Jackson, but he leads the trio in touchdown passes and yards per game since entering the NFL. In 2020, operating as more of a rugged game manager for Kevin Stefanski's run-heavy offense, he brought moxie and production (and a playoff win!) in his new role.
The Goff and Wentz deals, though not particularly encouraging in light of how they aged, are the most apt comparisons for his future contract. At the time of their deals, both Goff and Wentz had been in MVP races or contributed to their respective teams' Super Bowl bids. Goff, meanwhile, was 24 at the time of his deal, whereas Mayfield is already 26. But there are similarities: Like the ex-Eagles and Rams QBs, Mayfield was a top-two pick, he's sandwiched good years in between an off year, and he mostly projects as something like a top-12 QB. The market has also gone up since 2019 and will continue to do so. It's probably fair, then, to suggest the floor for an average annual value is about $33 million.
Our best educated guess as to what Mayfield's deal will look like: Four years, $136 million, for an average of $34M per year.
Already locked up through 2022, a four-year deal would keep Mayfield in Cleveland through 2026, giving both sides a chance to reassess their future when the QB is just 31. A $34M annual average, meanwhile, would comfortably make him the fifth-highest-paid QB, just ahead of Goff ($33.5M), Aaron Rodgers ($33.5M), Cousins ($33M), Wentz ($32M) and Matt Ryan ($30M), but just behind more proven QBs like Wilson ($35M). Presuming Allen and Jackson get paid soon after, and/or Rodgers strikes a new deal in Green Bay or elsewhere, Mayfield might enter 2021 as more like the eighth-highest-paid -- which seems very appropriate at this stage.